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  • damariszehner

Human/Nature

To encourage alternate ways to approach ourselves and the world, this week I offer two poems rather than an essay. They are metaphorical, not literal. I use the word "Anthropocene" loosely to mean the age of humankind, not caring, for now, about the legitimate debate over its meaning and implications. The views expressed in these poems do not necessarily represent either science or my own convictions about the future.


All right; with the disclaimers out of the way, enjoy the poetry.

The Beginning of the Anthropocene


What daring our ancestor had, to face a wolf –

The teeth, the yellow eyes, the slow circling –

And see beyond the snarl

A warm-coated companion

Curled around his sleeping children.


What courage, to contemplate the aurochs

With horns like tree branches, heavy hooves,

Its back as humped and massive as the hills,

And feel, beyond a proper terror,

His cheek pressed against a hay-scented flank

And his hands tugging uncontested at rubbery udders.


What ambition rose in him to hear the stallion

Rallying his herd and see the flying manes and tails

Vanish over the steppe; to picture wagons, chariots,

Speed and conquest, and himself a centaur

Scattering people with his hooves.


What hubris filled him as, beside the hut

Of mammoth hides, he stared obliquely

At the orange ball sinking; he crouched and struck

The sun out of a rock, caught it in strands of grass,

And blew until bright worms crawled through the kindling.

Night fell, but the small sun on his hearth glowed with power,

And he gazed at it and dreamed.


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The End of the Anthropocene


Picture a car, speeding along a highway in the morning.

A voice on the radio is gabbling about some crisis.

The driver’s cell phone is on, lying on the console next to her;

she’s shouting at someone. In her hand is fast food,

wrapped in greasy yellow paper.

A coffee cup in its holder develops waves

as the car swings onto a street slick with tar –

a tunnel through skyscrapers, smog,

car horns, wires, and metal signs.


Picture behind the car, miles away, then closer, then closer still,

a wall of water surging faster than a car can drive.

Trying to change lanes, swearing at the traffic,

the driver looks in the mirror.

Like Pharaoh on the Red Sea floor, like Noah’s neighbors,

she sees the future become her present.

A rush of water through the city canyons,

a jumble of cars stirred into foam –

The wall moves on.


Picture: on the surface of a silent sea, oil spreads its peacock tail.

Cars, a couch, bottles, bags, one purple Croc, a paper diaper

bob, briefly.

Like snags in a river, like compound fractures,

office buildings, phone poles, and billboards break the surface.

The car sinks, releasing one last gasp of air;

the couch subsides. The garbage drifts on.

Slowly the snags tip, then crumble,

splashing briefly as they succumb.

Unbroken surface; silence.

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